When Evan was just nine years old, he came down with a persistent high fever that doctors originally suspected was just a virus running its course after initial tests showed nothing abnormal. His parents were traveling at the time, but his aunt, a nurse, was taking care of him and keeping a close eye on his symptoms. When his fever still hadn’t gone away three days later, Evan’s aunt brought him to the Emergency Department at Children’s Medical Center Plano telling the care team that she, “was not leaving until [they] did every possible test to figure out what was going on.”
Unfortunately, Evan’s mom Christine received a call later that night with news no parent ever wants to hear: Evan had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He was being prepped for transport by ambulance to the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health℠ as they spoke.
“It was devastating,” Christine says.
Evan began treatment right away. He stayed in the hospital for the first week, where a port was inserted into his chest to administer an intensive regime of chemotherapy and other medications. After a week, he went home and continued his treatment through the outpatient clinic for the rest of the month.
After the first month, doctors ran additional tests to determine how the treatments were working and discovered that the leukemia was also presenting characteristics of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They officially changed his diagnosis to acute biphenotypic leukemia, prompting a change in his treatment plan.
Over the next several months, Evan had three more rounds of chemotherapy and endured full-body radiation to eliminate his bone marrow to prepare for a bone marrow transplant. He received his bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor through the Be the Match® registry on Nov. 11, 2016 – a date his family now considers his re-birthday.
Evan spent the next month in the hospital and was discharged on Dec. 15, 2016, just in time to celebrate his sister’s birthday and Christmas at home with his family. He had a great summer, during which he attended Camp Esperanza, a camp specifically designed for cancer patients cared for by Children’s Medical Center Dallas. But as he prepared to go back to school in August 2017, during a routine exam, doctors discovered Evan’s leukemia had returned.
He was readmitted to the Gill Center and received a second bone marrow transplant on Nov. 8, 2017, nearly a year after his first transplant. He is currently recovering and waiting for his new stem cells to begin producing his own blood cells so he can go home and continue his journey toward remission.
Throughout his journey, however, Evan has retained a sense of joy about him and a positive and fun-loving attitude. He is often found in the playroom doing puzzles, playing video games and making friends with other patients. He and his friends enjoy riding EzyRollers down the hospital hallways, something Evan says, “normal kids don’t get to do.”
Mary Van Meter, a Child Life Specialist in the Gill Center, says he has made a lasting impact on the patients and staff.
“Evan brings life to the hospital and has a great heart,” she says. “He encourages his friends going through treatment and his journey will impact many others in the future.”
He and his family and friends – who call themselves “Evan’s Avengers” – have organized an Easter Egg Hunt and Pumpkin Patch as well as a bone marrow and blood drive in his honor.
“There is nothing that can prepare a child or family to go through something like this,” Christine says. “You just have to focus on the positives and get through it. We hope that by giving back, we can help other patients going through the same thing.”
The Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the best pediatric hospitals in the United States. Learn more about our programs and services.
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